Tuesday, 2 February 2016

'The Secret Life of Stories': a new book from Michael Bérubé

Michael Bérubé'Life as We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child, published in 1996 remains a highlight in the literature about people with Down syndrome and their families - a landmark in a then burgeoning list of family accounts. So his latest book, due for publication tomorrow in the US, is much anticipated. If you are a reader, this is one for your 2016 reading list.

The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way we ReadMichael Bérubé, New York University Press, 2016
Narrative informs everything we think, do, plan, remember, and imagine. We tell stories and we listen to stories, gauging their “well-formedness” within a couple of years of learning to walk and talk. Some argue that the capacity to understand narrative is innate to our species; others claim that while that might be so, the invention of writing then re-wired our brains.

In The Secret Life of Stories, Michael Bérubé tells a dramatically different tale, in a compelling account of how an understanding of intellectual disability can transform our understanding of narrative. Instead of focusing on characters with disabilities, he shows how ideas about intellectual disability inform an astonishingly wide array of narrative strategies, providing a new and startling way of thinking through questions of time, self-reflexivity, and motive in the experience of reading. Interweaving his own stories with readings of such texts as Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip, Bérubé puts his theory into practice, stretching the purview of the study of literature and the role of disability studies within it. Armed only with the tools of close reading, Bérubé demonstrates the immensely generative possibilities in the ways disability is deployed within fiction, finding in them powerful meditations on what it means to be a social being, a sentient creature with an awareness of mortality and causality — and sentience itself. Persuasive and witty, Michael Bérubé engages Harry Potter fans and scholars of literature alike. For all readers, The Secret Life of Stories will fundamentally change the way we think about the way we read. (Publisher's note)
The Secret Life of Stories is widely listed by booksellers online, and is available in both print and Kindle editions.

Life As We Know It is available for Down Syndrome NSW members to borrow from our library, as is  Great Expectations (2008) to which Bérubé contributed three stories about his son, Jamie, who has Down syndrome, and the assumptions, expectations and realities of his academic abilities and thought processes.

Down Syndrome NSW members can contact Jo in the library via email library@dsansw.org.au to arrange a loan.

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